Helene's story

When her child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 8, Helene Brenchley-King felt it was like a slap in the face. Now, 11 years on, she has raised a happy, independent daughter and is still involved in local diabetes service provision decisions. This is her story in her own words.

My daughter was 8 years old and I noticed that she had started to lose weight. It didn't cause me great anxiety because she was at an age when children shed 'puppy fatOne of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body.'. But she had been feeling unwell and was experiencing stomach-aches. I took her to the doctor, but it was put down to growing pains.

For a brief moment there was a sense of relief that it was diabetes being diagnosed and not leukaemiaA malignant condition in which increased numbers of white blood cells, leucocytes, are produced in an immature or abnormal state. or a tumour. It did mean that there was going to be a tremendous change in her life and ours, though.

One day I went into the bathroom when she was bathing and her arms looked so skinny that I was worried. So I made another appointment for her to see our doctor. I asked my daughter to produce a urine sample, which I handed in on the morning of our appointment. I'd also written a letter to the doctor explaining what had been happening because I didn't want to discuss this in front of my daughter.

On arrival, the doctor said, 'I've read your letter and you describe the classic signs of diabetes. I tested the urine and here is your letter for the hospital.'  Subconsciously, I must have been anticipating it, but to be told to go straight to A&E came as quite a shock. For a brief moment there was a sense of relief that it was diabetes being diagnosed and not leukaemiaA malignant condition in which increased numbers of white blood cells, leucocytes, are produced in an immature or abnormal state. or a tumour. It did mean that there was going to be a tremendous change in her life and ours, though.

One of the ways we coped was by demonstrating that we, as a family, were all willing to inject ourselves. Although clearly we weren't injecting ourselves with insulinA hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that acts to lower blood glucose levels., we did fingerprick tests and put needles into our own bodies. It was a way of reassuring Laura.

We went straight to A&E. They were very quick and efficient, beginning bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. tests and asking us questions. My prime concern was to reassure Laura because for a child it can all be very bewildering. I was also asking all sorts of questions because I wanted to know what they were doing and why they were doing it. But I didn't want to ask anything that might panic Laura. She was then admitted to the children's ward, where she had to stay for 5 days.

By the time she left hospital she had learned how to self-inject. Watching your child do that is indescribable because you know it's going to hurt them and you want to protect them but you know that if they don't do it there could be devastating consequences. One of the ways we coped was by demonstrating that we, as a family, were all willing to inject ourselves. Although clearly we weren't injecting ourselves with insulinA hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that acts to lower blood glucose levels., we did fingerprick tests and put needles into our own bodies. It was a way of reassuring Laura.

For the first year it was like sitting on pins - literally! At meal times, Laura would do her bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. test but she would have to psyche herself up every time to give herself the injection. Emotionally it's quite a traumatic and complex thing. Some evenings it used to take her 15 minutes or longer.

From then on, whatever we did, diabetes was a shadow that was with us. If we were going out for the day we couldn't just rely on a chocolate bar to keep us going till we got home. Also, we had to make sure we had enough glucoseA simple sugar that is an important source of energy in the body. tablets in case she had a hypoPrefix suggesting a deficiency, lack of, or small size., or equipment including test strips, syringes and insulinA hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that acts to lower blood glucose levels.. Life became easier with the introduction of the insulinA hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that acts to lower blood glucose levels. pen and also long-acting insulinA hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that acts to lower blood glucose levels.. She would still have to inject just before meal times, but this became easier.

I feel sometimes that she doesn't look after herself as I would, but I have to accept that it's her diabetes and her life. She's doing all the things you would expect a young person to do and I'm very pleased for her.

We said from the very beginning that although she had diabetes, she could do whatever activities she wanted and shouldn't miss out on anything. I saw her head teacher, the school nurse and her class teacher and explained what was happening. I stated quite clearly what I expected of the school and what they should expect of Laura. Diabetes was not an excuse for not getting on with her life.

It's difficult when your children get older as you have to loosen the reigns. When Laura went to secondary school I couldn't have so much day-to-day involvement because it was farther away and she was making her own way there.

Then, when Laura was 17, she took responsibility for her own health, agreeing that she would come to us if there was any problem. Now aged 19, she is reasonably healthy. I feel sometimes that she doesn't look after herself as I would, but I have to accept that it's her diabetes and her life. She works now, she's learning to drive and she goes out with her friends. She's doing all the things you would expect a young person to do and I'm very pleased for her.

Two years after Laura's diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have., service provision began to change at our diabetes unit, so some of us started a support group to ensure that services were kept to a high level in our area. I've been the chairman for nearly 10 years now and the group is consulted by the local care trust on many matters.